Master of the shakes

Who else feels completely immobilised when they become angry?

I sit there shaking, on the verge of tears, looking down at the table and worrying my head as I try to stumble through my words.

Often when I get this angry, I concede to what I am in disagreement about to get the moment over and done with.

When stress overtakes our brain, we physically cannot access our reason. There is literally a wall separating the parts of our brain responsible for emotion and reason. That wall starts vibrating and it blurs the lines.

The best trick in regaining control?


You can’t control the raised heart rate.

You can’t control the sweating and shaking and trembling.

But you can control your breathing.


So then what?

You’ve got yourself under control and you’re starting to look up, that wave of sick washing over you is ebbing away and you realise you need to say something.

Perhaps someone has offended you horribly, or someone else.

Perhaps someone is trying to make you do something outside your role, or asking you to perform a task that compromises your values.

Perhaps you have been belittled or made to feel worthless by someone more senior than you.

The best advice I’ve been given is to tell yourself it is not your fault that someone has let their anger out on you.

Because that’s what this is. At the end of the day, someone else found it the most appropriate thing to look you in the eye  and tell you that you are not up to scratch in their books.

They don’t get to choose your worth. Only you do.

So breathe. Remove your panic. Look them in the eye and speak slowly. If you cannot speak, tell them that. “I’m very offended by what you just said. I need to walk away now.” and follow through.


These few tactics have helped me immeasurably and I am getting better at them.

Professionally it of course makes me feel more in “control” of my interactions with colleagues.

Personally, however, I feel like it helps me set my boundaries with friends and family in a way I often haven’t been able to in the past.

I often used to feel hurt when people assumed I hadn’t thought through my decisions. I’ve written about this previously.

I have done a lot of thinking recently about the “role” of my friends. I love that I have friends to run screaming to who I know will match my excitement level, even if it’s over a new trick my dog learnt to do. I love that I have friends who I can sit for hours on the couch and share secrets and worries and learn things about each other that make me feel privileged. I love that I have friends who make me cry laughing whenever I see them.

We have all different friends for all different reasons. I can’t expect every person in my life to react to me how I want them to. But I can choose how I react. I can be calm and steady.

And in those times that I can’t be, it’s OK for me to remove myself and try again later (or not, if I choose not to).

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